American Academics’ Bigotry

In Response to a post at the AAUP by Professor Rafael
                                                                      an update to a post from Dec 29.
He says (see below)
There seems to be a lot of mistaken notions about the details of the ASA boycott. For what it’s worth, the ASA statement makes clear that the boycott is not meant to inhibit the academic freedom of individual Israeli scholars. Rather, it is meant to safeguard the academic freedom of all, including Palestinian scholars. Here’s the relevant passage in the ASA resolution:
I took your post about the boycott movement seriously.  I read the official American Studies Association in support of the boycott of Israel’s Universities. I am glad I did because now I am horrified that any colleague would sign on to this text.  It is anything but a reasoned call to encourage peace,  Rather it is  worthy of the sort of  Wahabi-ist  and Salafi propaganda from the anti Israel press of Iran or Egypt.
The only redeeming comment I can make is that the document, unlike the Arab propaganda,  is not openly anti-Semitic.  It is, however, worthy of Goebell’s strategy of using bug lies to make its points.  Moreover, as I will explain below, the ASA is itself being racist is the way it misuses the term “Palestinian.”
How can you justify the ASA argument when it is so openly based on bigotry?
Nothing in the document addresses ” is meant to safeguard the academic freedom of all, including Palestinian scholars”  unless you see the facts of occupation and the ongoing state of war, as limiting academic freedom for Israelis as well as Iranians, Egyptians, Syrians and … Palestinians. Blaming Israel for this is equivalent to accepting  Hamas calls for ethnic cleansing of the Jews.   The simple facts of life are that the only limitations, other than military, of academic freedoms on the West Bank come from the practice of censorship by the Palestinian government. Arab citizens of Israel, even if they identify themselves as Palestinian, have full academic rights,

The document treats all Arabs in Israel as “Palestinians.” This is bullshit.  Israel’s Arabs have full rights. What limits there are reflect the obvious difficult situation and some problems of bigotry by a Jewish majority.  What President Crater called apartheid, however, has nothing to do with Israel’s own citizens.   For the record, ALL the Arabs living in Jerusalem were offered full Israeli citizenship after the reconquest of the city in the 76 war.

The all too real limits on Arabs living in the West Bank are horrid but they have to with war, not ethnic discrimination. If the ASA and its ilk would support peace, perhapsmy Arand borthers and Sisters could have much better lives.

The document reeks of its own racism.  The ASA refers to Israel’s policies toward   all Arabs in Israel as “Palestinians” as racist.  Arabs and Jews are racially alike, no matter how you define the term “racist.” As a 50% Sephardic Jew, my “race” is as  indistinguishable from my Arabs brothers and sisters as it is from my Yemeni (Jewish) brothers and sisters.  The “Jewish” genome amongst Ashkenazim, for that matters, is also largely Semitic.

The document claims “Palestinian” students do not have equal rights.  The most striking claim made by the ASA is that “Palestinians” are barred from holding student office in Israel’s universities. I was so upset by this that I went to the example they cite.  The example is Sefad College, a small school serving the needs of the ultra orthodox community of Sefad … well within the historic borders form 1948.  Frankly, I doubt very much any non Israeli Arabs would choose to attend this small local school.  I also suggest the Jews in Sefad have as much right to run a school as the American religious groups have to run Seattle Pacific or Skagit Community Bible College. I saw no evidence that any Palestinians had enrolled or even wanted to run for office.

The document faults Israeli Universities for being militarized.  It is nice for us to live in the security of Seattle, Washington where only a few students choose ROTC and DARPA grants are a small part of the UW. The ASA members … what we used to call lace curtain liberals … lead a lot easier lives than our Israeli colleagues.  Imagine a campus in a small country at war, imagine ALL of your students having compulsory service, imagine walling up to car bombings and missile hits.


On Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 7:28 PM, Vicente L. Rafael <> wrote:

There seems to be a lot of mistaken notions about the details of the ASA boycott. For what it’s worth, the ASA statement makes clear that the boycott is not meant to inhibit the academic freedom of individual Israeli scholars. Rather, it is meant to safeguard the academic freedom of all, including Palestinian scholars. Here’s the relevant passage in the ASA resolution:

Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.


Here’s a helpful link to FAQ about the boycott that might also help set the record straight:

And finally, an interesting commentary by Rabbi Brant Rosen from his blog Shalom Rav:

Happy holidays!

Vicente Rafael

Professor, History





On Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 8:59 AM, Naomi B Sokoloff <> wrote:

Phil Bereano’s post compares an mla conference panel to a political rally. There are significant differences between those two phenomena — or at least there should be. It does seem that such a skewed panel is a deliberate effort to politicize and to try to advance a  B D S agenda at mla . Is B D S a legitimate topic for analysis in an academic talk? Yes. Is academic boycott a legitimate cause to advocate at an academic conference? No. Academic boycott is antithetical to academic freedom and discriminates against individuals on the basis of their nationality.
Professor Naomi Sokoloff Near Eastern Languages and Civilization University of Washington Box 353120 Seattle, WA  98195-3120 USA Phone:  206-543-7145

On Tue, 24 Dec 2013, wrote:
Thank you Paul for this information.
When there is a significant imbalance of power, it is a false virtue to require that every presentation be “balanced” or “even-handed”.  The views of the powerful (here Israel and its defenders, such as  AIPAC, ADL, AJC, etc) are promulgated widely, supported by millions of dollars (actually)–we have all been thoroughly exposed to them. The arguments in favor of BDS have only just begun to gain some traction, and most people are ignorant of them. In order to allow for more even-handed consideration of the issues,skewed presentations are often necessary. I followed this principle often in devising my class syllabi, where I would be presenting non-Establishment perspectives to help develop students’ critical thinking skills.

All grass roots social movements understand this. (E.g. the imbalance in km l

resources caused by Monsanto and others in the I-522 discussion of labeling GE foods, to surpress less well-funded views). In the 1960s, we didn’t demand that supporters of Jim Crow be invited to speak at every campus civil rights rally, or complain that the military-industrial complex was having its First Amendment free speech rights curtailed at every university discussion of the Viet Nam war (Ah, I remember well when Chomsky spoke at Cornell–and no one questioned why Gen Westmoreland had not been invited).
So in an tilted playing field, academic events which seek to redress the imbalance are perfectly legit. BDS is a hot topic for academics right now, worthy of discussion in its own right, and it doesn’t have to be presented solely in the context of Zionist philosophy or Israeli insecurities, as real as these other topics are.
Phil Bereano (“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”–Anatole France) *************************** Philip L. Bereano Professor Emeritus HCD&E Department Sieg Hall University of Washington Seattle, Wash. 98195 ***************************
On Tue, 24 Dec 2013, Paul Burstein wrote:

For everyone’s information:
The MLA will be having a “special session” on January 9 at its conference entitled: Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine
Information provided about the session is described in the MLA program as follows:
Presiding: Samer M. Ali, Univ. of Texas, Austin
Speakers: Omar Barghouti, Independent Scholar; Barbara Jane Harlow, Univ. of Texas, Austin; David C. Lloyd, Univ. of California, Riverside; Richard M. Ohmann, Wesleyan Univ.  Session Description:  This roundtable addresses the political movement Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, seen by its defenders as a viable means to end the Palestinian occupation. Many academics face questions about how to respond to this boycott or how to evaluate academic boycotts more generally. This roundtable is intended to promote discussion of strategy, ethics, and academic work in larger world contexts through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There are a couple of things to note about the session:
First, the description mentions BDS defenders, but not opponents.
Second, there is a reason for this:  all the participants are defenders of a boycott against Israel.
Omar Bhargouti is a founder of and leader in the international BDS movement.   (“Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian human rights activist and a founding member of the BDS movement.” )
Barbara Jane Harlow, a professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote a statement in favor of the ASA boycott and has long been on record in favor of one. (  )
David Lloyd is a member of the “Organizing Collective” of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. ( )
Richard Ohmann, a professor of English at Wesleyan University, signed a 2009 letter calling Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times.” ( )
Samer Ali, the chair and respondent of the panel, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he set up the panel to serve those who wished to discuss the pros and cons of the resolution. Yet he has made it very clear that he endorses the boycott recently adopted by the American Studies Association ( )
Because the panel is completely one-sided, the only opportunity for opposition to be heard will be at the panel and in whatever other forms of communication the MLA provides.  I don’t know if anyone who participates in this list is a member of the MLA, or if any such members will be at the upcoming meeting. I also don’t know if any MLA member on this list opposes academic boycotts in general or one-sided “conversations” clearly intended to present only one side.  If there are any such people on this list, I would hope they would attend the session and speak up for academic freedom and against one-sided attempts by the MLA program organizers to give an official voice only to those on one side of the issue.
The national AAUP’s official stance is against boycotts, and recently the leadership of the UW chapter went on record as supporting the policy stance of the national organization.  It would be great if any MLA members on this list were to declare themselves publicly in support of the policies of the organization to which they belong.  Debates and “conversations” are supposed to involve the expression of competing views.  Are there competing views among MLA members on this list?  Do MLA members on this listserv support the policy of the AAUP?  Do all oppose the policy?  Or are there competing points of view?
Paul Burstein

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